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Topics for Response Papers

Response Paper 1

Choose one. Please cite specific examples from our texts (cite using book and line number inserted into the body of your paper) to support your observations and conclusions.

1. Marduk, Zeus, God, and Jupiter are the most powerful gods in their respective creation myths. Compare God or Jupiter with either Marduk or Zeus. Some questions to consider: What qualities/characteristics/attributes do they have? Whom do they honor and who honors them? How do they interact with others? How do they treat men and women? What image of God is most appealing to you and why?

2. Examine the role of women in the creation myths we have read. Compare the creation of Eve with Pandora. Are each created for the same reason? Do they each have the same effect? Compare the Hebrew view of women with Hesiod's. Or examine Pyrrha, Io, or Daphne and compare them to Pandora. To what extent are they objects to be viewed or agents acting for themselves? How do they interact with others? What larger significance do they have in each myth?

Response Paper 2

Listen to several reports from National Public Radio about Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing flood.

Robert Siegel, Residents Eager to Reclaim New Orleans East

Seeing Oneself in New Orleans' Poor

Then compare the three flood stories we have read--Genesis, Metamorphoses, and Gilgamesh--with the news accounts. What attitudes do the ancient texts and modern news accounts reveal toward the victims of the disaster? Who is in charge and how do they act? What questions do ancient accounts ask and answer and how are they different questions from the news accounts? In short, do we learn something about the definition of myth by comparing these very different accounts of a flood?

Response Paper 3

Choose one. Please cite specific examples from our texts (cite using book and line number inserted into the body of your paper, e.g. Od. 10.457-59) to support your observations and conclusions.

1. In light of your reading of Odyssey 9-12, consider what makes a monster monstrous. Consider all the perils that Odysseus faces in 9-12 and decide which of them might be monstrous. For example, are the Sirens, Aeolus, Circe, or Helios monstrous? Must monsters be marked by physical differences or are there other characteristics that distinguish monsters from others? How do monsters interact with others, whether monstrous or not? What values do they hold dear? How do monsters differ from (and help define) what is "normal"? Are all who operate outside the norm monstrous (can you operate outside the norm without being monstrous). Can a community safely ignore or tolerate monsters?

2. Both Gilgamesh and Odysseus face monsters. Gilgamesh and Enkidu meet Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven while Odysseus meets any number of monsters in his travels. How do the two heroes act when confronted with monsters? Why do they act the way they do? How does each work define what it means to be "heroic" by showing how the hero overcomes these monsters?

3. Hermes in the Hymn to Hermes and Odysseus in the Odyssey share so many traits that one might say that Odysseus is a human version of the god. What similarities do they share? What talents are they known for? What similar feats do they accomplish? Most importantly, how do they accomplish these tasks, with whose aid (if anyone), and at whose expense?

Response Paper 4

Choose one. Please cite specific examples from our texts (cite using book and line number inserted into the body of your paper) to support your observations and conclusions.

"We can start by making two things perfectly clear. One: despite an opening credit to the contrary, the new Coen Brothers opus, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, has almost nothing to do with Homer's Odyssey--a few episodes notwithstanding, the bulk of the film is radically different from that of the great classical work. Two: it bears only a passing resemblance to the films of Preston Sturges, whose Sullivan's Travels provides the title; a ridiculous deus ex machina ending aside, it has none of the affection--if all of the wildness--of that writer/director's memorable oeuvre. So, having been smokescreened by these red-herring references, you have to ask: if it has nothing to do with Homer or Sturges, what the heck does it have to do with?"

"O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the latest from the Coen brothers, is supposedly based on Homer's Odyssey. Yeah, right, just like the Coens' Fargo was supposedly based on a true story. This is an epic dreamed up and set in Coenland, where familiar film genres get twisted into balloon animals, and where anything might happen to the characters because, hey, why not?

"Just to keep the conceit going, there are a handful of references to the Odyssey, but we're not exactly talking James Joyce here. George Clooney stars as a Mississippi convict with the unlikely name (for a Southerner) of Ulysses McGill, though everyone calls him by his middle name, Everett. (Is naming a character "Everett McGill" another in-joke, an homage to the actor who played Big Ed on Twin Peaks? Does it matter?) Everett escapes from the chain gang with two other prisoners, Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson). Everett leads the others in an ostensible quest for a robbery stash he buried, but actually in search of his estranged wife (Holly Hunter), who is called (of course) Penny. Along the way, the escapees meet a blind prophet (who says, "You will find a fortune, but not the fortune you seek"), a trio of sirens who seem to have a Circe-like ability to turn men into beasts, a Cyclops (a one-eyed Bible salesman right out of Flannery O'Connor's story "Good Country People," played with great relish by John Goodman), and some unusual cows."

Gary Susman, "O Brother is classic Coen brothers"

1. Do you agree with Hoover and Susman? Is the film "radically different" from Homer's Odyssey? Are there no more than a "handful of references" to the Odyssey in the Coen Brothers film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Or instead, are there Homeric themes (as well as characters) that the Coen Brothers have developed that come right out of the Odyssey? In short, does the Odyssey help us interpret O Brother, Where Art Thou? Why or why not?

2. It is often said that heroic journeys always have a male hero as the protagonist. Yet in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, it is Demeter who journeys in search of her daughter Persephone. Does the Hymn to Demeter offer an alternative to traditional male heroic journeys such as the Odyssey, e.g., in relationships, in actions, in motivations? Or does Demeter's gender have nothing to do with her journey?

Brother is classic Coen brothers"




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